Happy In Bag

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why Is This No Longer the American Standard?

Don't you prefer full-length urinals? I do.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Walking With the Ghosts

Aside from my strong desire for UMKC’s men’s basketball team to humiliate Missouri tonight, I don’t really care about the Kangaroos. Yet I plan to attend several of their home games this season for a reason unrelated to sports.

I’m in love with Municipal Auditorium.

Built in 1936, the building has housed political conventions and basketball Final Fours. It’s been marred by a few contemporary additions, but Municipal maintains most of its original artful flair

I didn’t give the arena a second thought when I was a kid attending events in downtown Kansas City. I just recall the thrill of the circus and the brutality of boxing matches. (Anyone remember Tony Chiaverini?). I’ve seen dozens of musical acts ranging from Genesis to James Brown, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer to Prince perform there. None managed to coax decent sound out of the space.

Still, it gives me shivers. I’m not going to claim that Municipal Auditorium is literally filled with ghosts. But I will say that its weight of time and history are very heavy.

I don’t pretend to know anything about the needs of modern sports franchises, the demands of today's conventions or the whims of concert promoters. Still, I was puzzled by the disregard the old building received in the debates leading to the groundbreaking on the new Sprint facility. Sure, Municipal’s corridors are a little tight on the rare occasion when attendance passes 5,000. And the concessions can be spotty. At least the new seats are plush. I hope it turns out to be a good thing for Kansas City. But when premiere events currently held at Municipal don’t attract much of a crowd, I don’t know how they’ll fare better in a bigger space.

Until then, you’ll find me sitting among the old spirits of Municipal Auditorium.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Walking On Eggshells

Most Kansas Citians actively avoid engaging in risky activity. They know better than to ride a bike to work, date a Chiefs player, or stand between a preacher and a television camera.

That’s nothing. I feed birds.

I maintain several bird feeders on my property. A couple are attached directly to my home. I also get my hands dirty cleaning and refilling a bird bath.

My standard-issue Prairie Village backyard is about the size of Yao Ming, yet it’s an active aviary. It’s a summer home to dozens of bird species, but only the cardinals keep a permanent residence. I feed fresh flocks of migrating birds each week during the fall and spring. Even if these travelers are simply moving south from Canada or north from Mexico, it’s quite possible that they’ll have crossed paths with trans-continental species.

Clearly, I’m inviting avian flu into my home. If I don’t survive the winter, promise me this- be sure to keep the feeders full.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Got a Light?

Are community and tradition enough?

I got up in the middle of the Plaza’s annual lighting ceremony Thanksgiving night and was reminded that those two sentimental standbys, along with the fleeting moment the lights come on, are all that are offered at the popular annual ceremony.

As most of the retail and restaurants are boarded up, it’s a real struggle to find someone to take your money. The line to buy small styrofoam cups of coffee and hot chocolate outside the Classic Cup was about thirty deep. And the lines for portable toilets was even more daunting. Luckily for boozers and full bladders, The Granfalloon was open for business.

Guest dignitaries Dick Vermeil and his wife helped flip the light switch. They seemed understandably concerned by the manic behavior of MC Larry Moore. His unbridled jocularity was creepy. Even more disturbing was the bizarre Branson-esque dance routine preceding the big moment.

Call me Scrooge, but if I was running the show, I’d insist on opening all the establishments on the Plaza, add additional stages with seasonal entertainers, and hoist large video screens to ensure maximum focus and product placement. You bet I’d commercialize it.

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Tragically, I committed involuntary manslaughter on the real star of Happy In Bag, my clunky old digital camera. I ordered a new one online this morning (no way am I battling for one at a store today). Until it arrives I’ll be running unused photos from my archives.

So, haven’t the sunsets been spectacular lately?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

You've Been Pittsnogled!

Happy In Bag is a stealth blog. I’ve lured dozens of devoted readers into the Happy In Bag web with my tales of fast food, bird sightings and nightclubs. It’s finally time to reveal the truth.

There’s only one thing that matters in this world- college basketball. And on Monday and Tuesday nights, Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium was host to the Guardians Classic, a major season-opening tournament.

Highly-ranked Iowa, West Virginia, Texas and Kentucky comprised the tournament’s final four. West Virginia is led by national folk-hero Kevin Pittsnogle, a 6-11 three-point-shooting geek. He and his team looked soft in Tuesday’s consolation game as they went down to the venerable but talent-deprived Kentucky.

Even without noted booster Ashley Judd, Kentucky’s fans were incredible. They had more fun than anyone, including the hard-drinking Longhorns contingent. Fortunately, ESPN’s courtside reporter Erin Andrews was on hand to provide ample sex appeal. And with the TV-mandated 80-minute break between games, the crowd was desperate for such diversions. The so-called halftime entertainment provided by KPRS-FM, Hot 103 Jamz, certainly didn’t qualify. Their slam-dunk contest fizzled out once it became clear that only one of their hand-picked contestants could actually dunk the ball. You know things aren’t going well when thousands of people lustily boo high school kids. They should have asked me to participate to save everyone the bitter disappointment.

Even though #2-ranked Texas topped Iowa in the championship game, they looked beatable. Then again, Iowa may be the season’s strongest dark horse candidate. Their pale, balding Greg Brunner gets my vote as the best player in the tournament, topping current Texas star and future NBA-All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.

I pledge to you, faithful Happy In Bag reader, that I will make every effort to limit my posts about college basketball. Given that about 5,000 seats remained empty Tuesday night, it’s obvious that Kansas City, at least, doesn’t share my passion for the sport. Unless I find a dedicated site that satisfies my unique sensibilities, I may even start a third blog about the sport for just that purpose.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tip On In

Dear Etiquette Guru:

You’ve probably never been to a Sonic Drive-In. The fast food outlet is ever so much tastier than McDonalds. Its brand of grease and sugar delights my palate. My gluttony won’t be curbed until my stomach is impeded by the steering wheel. You see, at Sonic the food is delivered to your car. This brings me to my question: Should I tip Sonic's servers, and if so, what’s the appropriate amount? I currently tell my server to "keep the change." So they make out like bandits if the bill is $7.95 and I hand them a ten. They’re out of luck if I order only a $1.75 breakfast burrito and fork over a deuce. What’s a polite fat boy to do?

Obese in KC

Monday, November 21, 2005


I usually resist the encroachment of national chains. Half Price Books is an exception. I appreciate that they place equal emphasis on literature and dreck. I’ve uncovered many bargains in their stores. But I recently learned about the flip side to that equation when I sold them a couple dozen books. Even on the titles I bought used from the same store weeks earlier, I received only pennies on the dollar. Unless anyone has tips regarding this process, in the future I’ll just donate my discards to a charitable thrift store.

Friday, November 18, 2005


As if this Happy In Bag blog didn’t already make me the biggest geek on the block, I launched an MP3 blog Monday.

There Stands the Glass

Break my glasses and take my lunch money, already.

I’ll be posting a new song every weekday. Today, it’s an obscure old-school hip hop track by Ultramagnetic MCs. It’s quite the jam. Also up for the taking are an old Freddy Fender song, a jazz ballad, and a soul cover and new damaged pop by Lawrence’s Kelpie. I love it all.

Technically, this is illegal. But since I’m not posting the new Ashley Simpson single, and because every record label I’ve spoken to enthusiastically embraces the concept, I’ll gladly accept the risk.

Still, I gotta know- are pocket protectors allowed in prison?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Why Did You Leave Me, Otis Birdsong?

Tiny Archibald hurries up the court. Sam Lacey sets a pick. The ball swings over to Scotty Wedman. He goes inside to Bob Bigelow, who walks with it. Possession, New Orleans Jazz.

Yes, that’s the 1976 Kansas City Kings, playing in cutting-edge Kemper Arena. The games were so sparsely attended that you could pick your spot. I loved sitting in the bleachers behind the basket. The memory of having heroes like John Havlicek, World B. Free, Elvin Hayes and Bill Walton crash into me is still spine tingling.

Part of me died when the NBA left Kansas City for Sacramento. Professional sports are critical to a city’s viability. So when Lamar Hunt pushes for a cutting-edge Arrowhead Stadium, I’m inclined to fall in line. And I don’t even care all that much about the NFL- my delicate sensibilities make it impossible for me to enjoy attending Chiefs’ games.

(This photo of an open-air Arrowhead was taken after a Wizards game in August.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Roger (Bettye, Bruce) & Me

My ears hurt so good. The music scene in Kansas City is more vital and exciting than it's been in at least a decade.

It starts with the clubs. The Record Bar, which became the city’s premier venue the first night it opened, is a godsend. Between it, the Brick, Davey’s, the Hurricane, and Mike’s, local rock’n’rollers have never had it so good. Even as the brilliant Tech N9ne can headline at Memorial Hall, the conscious hip hop scene is blowing up. The nortena and salsa scenes seem to be thriving. Jazz is struggling, but there are still a handful of solid acts playing out every night. Blues is stuck in one of its cyclical downtrends, there’s still plenty to be heard around town, especially at roots-oriented clubs like BB’s Lawnside BarB-Q and Knuckleheads.

The Sunday Star is loaded with listings for various classical music events. And I haven’t even mentioned the new space at Harrah’s or the fine room at Ameristar. Adequate radio and retail support are now the only missing links in an otherwise scorching hotbed of music.

Tuesday night you could have found me at the Hurricane, the scene of an epic double bill. The first event was the kind of boutique show that almost never touches down in Kansas City. Resurrected legend Bettye LaVette, in support of her new Anti release I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, tore it up. It was like seeing Otis Redding.
Her opening act was the venerable Wild Women of Kansas City (see my September 5 entry).

Arizona's Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers played the second show. It's confounding that an act as compelling and talented as Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp pours it all out for only a couple hundred people a night.

Speaking of Springsteen, the reissue of Born To Run hit shelves Tuesday. I can’t wait to pick it up. But with all the action in Kansas City, it’s going to be hard to find time to enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cruiser 980, Clear

Many people use blogs as electronic confessionals. I’ve never done that. Until now.

My shameful transgression is my enthusiastic consumption of pulp journalism. I love lurid crime reporting on radio and television.

The current queen of disgrace is CNN’s Nancy Grace. She acts as a breathless prosecutor, judge and jury of sensational crimes. Her obvious arousal and bloodlust are obscene. And I watch her whenever I can. Over on Fox, Greta Van Susteren’s nightly program is slightly more responsible. Consequently, her work is less compelling even though she covers the same cases as Nancy.

And what are these cases? The details change but the primary subject matter is constant. It seems that there’s a constant supply of brutal murders of attractive white women. These programs shamelessly revel in the bloodshed, speculate on motives, and rush to judgement on a slate of suspects.

I’m saddened by these tragedies, of course. Aside from our common humanity, though, I have no personal connection to the Alabama teen lost in Aruba or to the prominent attorney’s wife bludgeoned to death in California. It’s clearly prurient interest that keeps me, and hundreds of thousands of other people, watching.

It’s barbarity as entertainment. Or mayhem as distraction.

Locally, KMBZ radio’s film noir-ish field reports continue the pattern. This morning, their reporter detailed a nasty mishap from north of the river. And his sign off is just plain cool: "I’m Dan Verback from Cruiser 980. Clear."

Best of all is KCTV’s 10pm news broadcast. The "Live, Late-Breaking, Investigative" program focuses on crime, fires and accidents. I’ll pick up local government, national and international news elsewhere, thank you very much. Just give me the savage details about the day's cases of domestic violence and robbery. It’s pure trash, and I lap it up.

I don’t know if I can break this habit. I don’t even know if I want to end it. What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with us?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Three Strikes and You're In

I was a ten-year-old bowling prodigy. As the owner of a customized ball, shoes, and 175 average, I was a factor in league play. But after my family moved to a nicer neighborhood, I was told to forget about the game.

Saturday night was the first time I’d bowled in a couple years. Man, it’s still fun. Everything but the beer and cigarettes has changed. What’s up with the colored balls? And I wish I could disable the flashy animation on the newfangled scoring screens.

My old stroke started to return after a few frames. I’d be more enthused about taking bowling up again if I could be reassured that I wouldn’t have to throw a purple ball.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Tarbox Ramblers with Mike Ireland

I like Mike’s. And I love that the bar is now aggressively booking great national and local acts. My review of Tuesday night’s double bill of the Tarbox Ramblers and Mike Ireland is posted at Patchchord .

Friday, November 11, 2005

Final Vinyl

The Star reports that Ron Rooks intends to shut down The Music Exchange. The music emporium in Westport is an enormous repository of used vinyl and dusty pop culture detritus. It’s one of the most impressive album accumulations in the Midwest, and its million-plus units surely places it among the top ten nationally. Ron is one of Kansas City’s great characters. And like most people who love him, I’m frequently exasperated by his nutty ways. He doesn’t just march to his own drummer. He acts as if the entire Kansas City Marching Cobras dance squad and drum corp are providing his personal soundtrack. There are countless great stories involving Ron, but you'll have to catch me at Davey's Stagecoach Inn if you want to hear them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Me and the Ladies Who Lunch

Civic boosters in Independence are proud of Ophelia’s, and rightly so. It’s a charming restaurant located on the old courthouse square. Surrounded by the "ladies who lunch" set when I dined at Ophelia’s Tuesday, I still enjoyed my somewhat overpriced meal. Replete with smart light fixtures, a handsome bar and tasteful background music, it’s not dissimilar to Houston’s. While I wouldn’t drive thirty minutes to eat at Ophelia’s, I’d happily travel there to take in the whole town square vibe. And if given a choice between it and the plethora of chain restaurants along nearby I-70, I’ll opt for Ophelia’s every time.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Independence Dependence

After completing some business at the Jackson County Court House Annex in Independence yesterday, I decided to sit in on a trial. After peering into various courtrooms, I selected a case that I hoped would distract me from my own petty concerns. Instead, it scared me straight.

A group of Independence-area teenagers had been on an alcohol and drug-filled night of aimless carousing. Around three in the morning, one boy stabbed another, apparently in a dispute over a girl. One of these losers was already facing 23 years in jail for crimes including possession and armed robbery. He was offered a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against his friend.

I can’t stand it any more. 2005 has been "The Year of the Knucklehead" for me. I’ve been forced to deal with the consequences of bad decisions by family members, new friends, and a number of casual acquaintances. And now I see this. What’s wrong with these dopes?

Some of these disasters are caused by sheer stupidity. Other messes can be pinned on pure selfishness. And sure, I understand that meth is lethal. But in many instances, wrecked lives are the ultimate consequence of the standard litany of societal ills. The tired laundry list includes broken families, absentee fathers, poor parenting, ruthless poverty, no moral or religious foundation, and perhaps most significantly, a criminally ineffective public educational system.

The dead-end kids in this Independence court room had less life in them than Harry Truman. It’s as if they realized years ago that they were doomed from the day they were born. And none of their limited experiences ever disproved that notion. These kids are broken, and as escalating crime statistics indicate, they occasionally take breaks from attacking each other to turn their senseless violence on innocent bystanders.

It’s enough to make a do-gooder like me give up and move to Idaho.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It's Black, I'm Blue

I'm reluctant to sound like a John Birch-style nut, but I'm deeply disturbed by moving our clocks back an hour. I’m all for saving energy and protecting kids at bus stops. But how depressing is it to have early evening rush hour in total darkness? There’s no playing catch outside after work, no game of fetch with the dog. Being cheating out of time in the warm temperatures and natural beauty of fall makes it even worse. This early gloom has thrown me into a funk.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Grease Is the Word

Heads up, gluttons!

Jerry’s Woodswether Café has moved a few blocks south to 1414 W. 9th.

In many ways, the West Bottoms institution is the best restaurant in town. The huge portions of reasonably priced food are delicious. The plate pictured, a massive breaded porkchop with green beans and mashed potatoes also came with a salad, all for $7.99. Most people simply order the burgers and fries, and for good reason. The burgers are huge, and the burly fries are incredible.

I'll miss the Greek restaurant and bar that previously operated at this location. It was dark and imbued with an illicit feel, due in no small part to the full bar against the east wall. And as a friend noted, the Greek owner's daughter who served as a waitress was "smokin.'" The booze is gone now, and the Woodswether people have lit up the space like an emergency room. The new Woodswether lacks the intimacy of its old cinder block location, which made eating at the counter a full-contact sport.

A few words of warning are necessary. First, the Woodswether is a smoker’s paradise, although there’s now a non-smoking section off to the side. Secondly, this is a workingman’s joint. Folks who don’t fit in should steel themselves for hostile stares.

The new mural on the west side of the building misspells Woodswether’s name. The beauty of this classic diner is that noone cares.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

OK Jones

I'm in the midst of a swell crush on OK Jones' new CD Push/Pull. I haven't felt this strongly about a locally-produced recording since Tech N9ne's Absolute Power, or maybe Pendergast's The Truth About Saturday Night. My rave review is posted over at
  • Patchchord
  • Friday, November 04, 2005

    Call Me Mr. Jones

    I don’t get it.

    Dandercroft, a sporadic ‘zine covering Kansas City’s music scene, has baffled me since its inception. I’ve never known what the Sam Hill is going on in its pages. And I love it.

    Sure, I'm familiar with most of the featured artists. I even like a handful of them. But the outlandish coverage makes it difficult to distinguish between intentional experimentation and just plain poor effort. I’m sure that Dandercroft’s mastermind John Bersuch encourages his contributors to reflect the essence of their subject matter. On my scoreboard, it works about half the time.

    The latest issue, #6, is currently available at shops and bars throughout midtown. It’s 68 pages of chemically imbalanced gonzo journalism, inspired equally by Charles Bukowski and Looney Tunes.

    Highlights include a hilarious look back at Banshee, an amusing portrait of Bacon Shoe, two essays by blogger Greg Beck, and a musical autobiography from Keanon Liggatt. It’s also good to see a profile of Howard Iceberg. He’s a character straight out of a hard-boiled detective novel.

    Self-indulgent and myopic by definition, Dandercroft still manages to convince several business to advertise. Balanca’s, the Hurricane and its new nemesis, The Record Bar, took out full page ads, as did local record labels Second Nature and Anodyne. Previous issues of Dandercroft came with a free CD. It’s missed, but with the widespread acceptance of MySpace and PureVolume, it’s no longer necessary.

    I’m enthused by the state of the indie rock scene in Kansas City. And I’m glad that Dandercroft exists to celebrate it. In lieu of a CD in the next issue, maybe Bersuch will consider including a bag of chemicals, or at least a cookbook, that will allow readers to maximize their reading experience.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Korma Chameleon

    Not too many years ago fans of Indian food in Kansas City had only one or two restaurants to choose from. Today, nan is everywhere. What distinguishes Korma Sutra’s Westport outlet from the competition is its exceptionally fine and dignified service. The staff is friendly and attentive, rare qualities in similar establishments. While good, Korma Sutra’s food isn't exceptional. The $8.00 lunch buffet includes lassi, the rich mango and yogurt drink, and the spiced coffee these guys are sipping while pondering who's going to pick up their check.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Flea the Scene

    Beer, chicken wings, televised sports and pretty girls- what’s not to like about Hooter’s? You won’t hear my voice among the whiny protesters when the orange eatery enters Westport. Even though I’ve never set foot in Westport's Chili’s or Starbucks, I don't understand why they’re considered evil while Kelly’s and Buzzard's Beach are seen as sacrosanct.

    Frankly, The Westport Flea Market & Bar and Grill, which will be razed to make room for Hooter’s, has been exceedingly grubby for years. And as a former customer of the infamous Bob Berdella’s bazaar, that association still gives me the willies.

    I stopped in the doomed structure to see a few minutes of Chad Rex’s performance on Sunday night. It was painful to see a genuine talent getting heckled by a couple of drunk and disgruntled Chiefs fans. The smirks of the patrons in this photograph (these aren’t the hecklers) indicate that they were aware of the freak taking their picture.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Rudy's Can't Fail

    I’ve never had a great meal at Rudy’s. So why do I keep returning? The food is reliably good, if unspectacular. Service is iffy, but the bar’s offerings can quickly remedy that glitch. And by sticking with the specials, one can eat and drink for a modest price. Officially named Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria, although I’ve never heard anybody call it anything but Rudy's, the festive restaurant is just east of State Line on Westport Road. Friday night I left Rudy’s feeling happier than when I entered. Spectacular culinary experiences aside, isn’t that all one can ask of a restaurant?